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Terror attacks in France demand statesmanship, not demagoguery

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World leaders behave in a settled pattern after a terrorist attack, so we know what to expect after the gruesome events in Nice on Thursday.

French President Emmanuel Macron will proclaim outrage at the killing of three citizens, and pledge to honor them by upholding the values of the republic — especially the freedom of expression. Messages of sorrow and solidarity will come from other heads of state. Leaders of Muslim countries will express regret at the blood spilled, apparently in the name of their faith.

Mere rhetoric to the ears of some, but what leaders say at moments like these matters. And all the more so now because too many leaders have recently been unable or unwilling to say the right things.

Consider the aftermath of the Oct. 15 beheading of Samuel Paty near Paris. The murderer, a Chechen refugee, was apparently motivated by the schoolteacher’s decision to show his students some cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a class about free speech. (The French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo had recently reprinted cartoons that had made it the target of a terrorist attack in 2015.)

Macron had himself angered Muslims at home and abroad earlier in the month by declaring Islam a religion “in crisis,” and calling for a thoroughgoing reorganization of the faith in........

© The Japan Times

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